High-priced athletic shoes worn by basketball's biggest names are status symbols for many consumers. But because of their price tags, kids wearing them can become the targets of robbers who want to make a profit from the expensive kicks.
"You see kids that don't know any better," Stephon says. "They know that the shoes cost [a certain] amount, and it's like, 'Okay, well, I'm going to take his sneakers and I'm going to sell them.'"
Stephon understands what it's like growing up and not being able to afford expensive sneakers. "My mother always said, 'That's grocery money.'" he says. "So for me, allowing kids now to be able to go to the store and spend their money on sneakers and to be able to buy it themselves, it's a movement. We've created something that everyone across the world is benefiting from."
Through the release of Starburys, Stephon says he wanted to create change by eliminating the view of sneakers as a fashion statement. "It's moving people in the right direction, and we say it's revolutionary," he says. "It's changed their lives."
To encourage the students in their studies, Stephon stops by to listen to their book reports—but he doesn't come empty-handed. Stephon brings a New York Knicks bag filled with books for each student in the class, and each child receives a $250 gift card for a Steve & Barry's shopping spree! "I've got one more surprise," Stephon tells them. "Everybody in your class is going to go to a Knicks game!"
For Ms. Pantuliano, Stephon's visit is about more than just fun surprises. "Their letters brought Stephon Marbury and The Oprah Winfrey Show to our little classroom in Red Hook, Brooklyn," Ms. Pantuliano says. "And to them, to know that their writing has meaning and that their words have power, I think, is a very powerful lesson—one that will carry with them forever."
Stephon says he can't explain the feeling he gets from seeing children enjoy his shoes. "Whenever I see the kids, how they respond and how the parents react when they see me, it's like a different feeling because it takes me outside of basketball," he says. "I tell people all the time, this is bigger than basketball."